Saturday, December 22, 2018

Russia Needs to Revive Cossack Military Settlements, Sivkov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, December 21 – Russia can’t afford to create irregular forces in the form of private military companies (PMCs) to provide territorial defense around the entire periphery of the country, Konstantin Sivkov says; and consequently, it should move to revive “real Cossacks” with real military settlements to perform that task.

            Writing in the influential Voyenno-Promyslenny kuryer, the prominent Moscow military analyst says that Moscow needs to address the increasing requirement that its forces include irregular units for use abroad and at home with the latter being responsible for both domestic security and defense against irregular aggression (

            PMCs are the obvious form for irregular forces to be used abroad, Sivkov suggests; but because of their high cost, the Russian government cannot afford to have them play a major role in domestic defense. Consequently, it must look elsewhere. The most obvious candidates for that are territorial defense units including Cossacks.

            If Moscow chooses to go in that direction, Sivkov says, it would mean “the restoration in Russia of a real Cossackry, a specific warrior people who would become a reliable support for the state and government under the most critical conditions;” and these could play both defensive and hybrid aggressive roles.

                Such settlements have a long and storied history in tsarist times.  Sometimes they were referred to as stanitsas, at others as forts, and in still a third as lines.  In general, they were organized by the state so that Cossacks could provide defense or the basis of expansion along the borders of the Russian Empire.

            (For background on this phenomenon, see in particular Philip Longworth’s The Cossacks (London, 1971).

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